20 years of the Pilates Foundation

PilatesYoga.com

Anne-Marie Zulkahari

The Pilates Foundation is coming of age. It is 20 years since PYM Director Anne-Marie Zulkahari, Hana Jones, and Trevor Blount hatched a plan around Anne-Marie’s kitchen table to form an organisation that would protect the rights of Pilates teachers in the UK and prevent American Sean Gallagher from suing them for using the Pilates name as he had begun to with certain established Pilates studios in the States.

Having resolved to establish the Pilates Foundation the dynamic trio invited Alan Herdman – who some 20 years earlier has brought the Method to the UK – to Chair its first Board, and Dreas Reineke – one of Alan’s first trainees – to be vice-Chair.  Though they shared a common vision, the three founders came from quite different backgrounds: Anne-Marie had studied in the States with Robert Fitzgerald and Fran Lehen (both of whom had been pupils of Corolla Trier); Hana studied first with Gordon Thomson (Alan’s 2nd trainee) and then went on to research the origins of the work; Trevor studied with Alan Herdman and Anne-Marie.

Their diverse experiences encouraged a strong feeling that all Pilates Foundation members be able to maintain their own style and continue to grow organically as Pilates teachers as they over time deepened their understanding. They particularly wanted the training studios to be able to maintain their individual approach to delivering the Pilates Method, something that was reflected in the first training syllabus.

At the first AGM the then Board members were successfully granted the first European collective trademark for the name ‘Pilates’.  To achieve this the studios in existence at that time who had joined the Pilates Foundation contributed significant sums towards the legal costs. The first members’ membership fees also went towards this cost – so those original members are referred to as the “Founding Members” of the organisation.

Fast forward 20 years and on Sunday 8 May two of those founding members – Anne-Marie Zulkahari and Hana Jones – spoke at the organisation’s latest AGM in central London.  They reminded their audience of the words used on the original Pilates Foundation logo: “promote, develop, maintain quality and excellence” and of their vision: to support teachers to maintain the integrity of the origins of the whole body of Joseph Pilates’ work – meaning both the apparatus and the mat work.  Zulkahari and Jones explained that as more and more training companies began to appear around the country running short course, fast track mat work training programmes, they felt under pressure to start a Pilates Foundation mat work course to try and offer serious candidates a more in-depth mat work training.

It was, admitted both, their biggest regret that the whole body of Joe’s work was thus divided in this way. At Sunday’s AGM therefore, in its 20th year, these two Founders chose rather fittingly to reiterate their key messages. Here’s what they had to say:

“We feel it is important to emphasise that if our mat work members want to grow and develop their skills as teachers of the Pilates Method the most effective way to do that is to take regular classes in a fully equipped studio with an experienced teacher and then eventually consider training to teach the apparatus work as well.  This way they will be able to experience the impact of the whole range of Joe’s work and its wide ranging applications to individual needs, conditions, ages and stages.  They will also learn the integral relationship between the apparatus and the mat work exercises and (possibly the most important point to emphasise) that the mat work is only one small part of his work, and not the easiest part at that.

“About 10 years after we first formed, when Pilates had become well-known and very popular, the Foundation members decided that a key aim of our organisation must be to maintain our integrity in order to avoid our work becoming diluted by commercial ambition. We feel it is essential that the Foundation continues to hold tightly to that aim.
“As the Founders, (and anyone else who was there at the beginning) we have seen the organisation go through some ups, and some serious downs over these past 20 years, and yet we are still here! At this significant anniversary, we feel that now is a good time to once again be reminded of our original vision: to promote, develop and maintain the quality and excellence of Pilates teachers in this country.   We must continue delivering Joe’s work in its entirety as it is fundamental to the efficacy of his technique.
“The Pilates Method got its reputation as a powerful and effective way of improving posture and rehabilitating injury because of the whole body of Joe’s work and, particularly, the work he did with the apparatus. Remember – he first started utilising the resistance from tensioned springs when he was in that PoW camp up in the Isle of Man during WWI when he used the bed springs from the hospital beds of injured soldiers to help rehabilitate their horrendous war injuries. The mat work was his first creative inspiration and he carried it forward into his work with spring resistance, but it was with the apparatus that he was able to make the most difference to people – and that continues to be the case today.
“We formed the Pilates Foundation to maintain the integrity of Joe’s work in the face of commercial pressures.  At the same time we wanted to ensure that the gifts of our individual approaches, abilities, skills and expertise were all utilised to develop the work further so that we could keep growing together together as a united body of committed Pilates teachers. Let’s keep doing that!”